Memorial Day

by Liz Gregg

Peter Caine saw his father through the window of the restaurant. Kwai Chang Caine sat alone, and Peter could tell by the motion of his arms that his father sipped a cup of tea.

My father.

Peter still felt awestruck even thinking those words. It had only been a short time since Caine had struggled down a burning, smoke-filled staircase and into Peter's life.

Father and son. Priest and cop.

What the hell do I say to him?

Peter could feel the words he had planned to speak evaporate into the warm air that surrounded him. Looking at the glass pane of the restaurant front, Peter saw the reflected blue and white stripes of his T-shirt, a sharp contrast to the dull brown color of his father's shirt.

We're as different as a father and son can be, right down to the way we dress.

Peter ran his hand through his hair, then pulled the door open and walked inside.

"Hi, Pop!" Peter straddled the chair next to Caine and received a fierce glance in return.

Raising both hands in the air, Peter said, "Sorry. Hi, Dad." He flashed a smile at his father.

Caine looked a moment longer, nodded his head once, then sipped his tea again.

Placing a hand on Caine's shoulder, Peter asked, "So, Dad, what are you doing today?"

Caine set down his teacup. "Doing today?"

Peter felt the frustration begin. "Yeah, Dad. Do you have any plans today? It's Memorial Day. I don't have to go to work until later this afternoon."

Saying nothing, Caine drained his tea. He set down the cup and slid the cup and saucer to the middle of the table.

Peter pushed on. "I'm going to Strenlich's place for a barbecue. He has the day off and has invited everyone over. It'll be like an open house. We'll all be coming and going, depending on our shifts." Peter hesitated a moment, rubbed his nose with his thumb, then asked, "Do you want to go with me?"

Caine didn't answer. Irritated, Peter said, "You know, Dad. A barbecue. Someone throws a few coals on the grill, lights them, then tosses on some burgers."

"I know what a barbecue is, my son," Caine said mildly.

"Well maybe if you said something, I would know that you know!"

Caine folded his hands. "I was just thinking that I am glad you have made friends you enjoy spending time with."

"Oh." Peter looked down, then back at his father. "Well, you will, too, Dad." Peter watched his father's lips part and his eyes narrow, as if struggling to understand what his son was saying. Then Caine reached out and touched Peter's cheek, even as his gentle smile reached out and touched his son's heart.

Peter turned away and looked out the window. "I just don't want you to, you know, be alone."

"You were worriedthat I would be alone," Caine said softly. "You need not be concerned."

"I guess you were alone a lot for those fifteen years," Peter ventured. His father remained silent. Well, so was I, Peter thought.

"Does this mean you're not coming with me?"

"I cannot," Caine said. He smiled and added, "But I am honored to have been invited."

Peter felt a peculiar combination of anger and elation, a mixture of emotions he was becoming very familiar with. He rose quickly. "All right. I'll catch you later."

Peter never turned around, but he could feel his father watch him as he left the restaurant. So he waited until he was out of sight before he wiped the tear that had dampened his cheek.

Get a grip, Caine. All you need is a burger and a beer. Peter got in his car and headed to the party.

To sequel, Ties That Bind

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